Republican leaders returned to Washington after a lengthy Easter recess with two discrete goals for the week: Keep the federal government from shutting down, and maybe, if they had the time and the votes, finally pass their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Congress being Congress, this presented a test significantly more difficult than, say, walking and chewing gum at the same time. And as a deadline for funding the government draws near, one GOP priority is threatening to derail the other.
House Democrats on Thursday warned that they would withhold their support for a short-term extension of government funding if Republicans first tried to rush through legislation decimating Obamacare, while an impatient President Trump accused them of wanting to shut down the government for not agreeing to his demands. The rhetorical volleys injected a new round of drama into a spending showdown that had seemed close to a resolution. But it wasn’t clear that any of the threats would actually be carried out.
The deadline for Congress to pass some sort of extension of government funding is Friday at midnight. Negotiators have been making progress on legislation that would appropriate money for the remaining five months of the fiscal year, and those talks picked up steam once Trump relented on his demand for border-wall money and agreed to Democratic demands that the administration continue paying out a key Obamacare subsidy for insurers. But with a deal yet to be struck, Republicans introduced a measure to extend current funding for another week, hoping to buy time for negotiations without shuttering national parks and museums or sending thousands of federal employees home for a few days.